SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Toegel, Ina, Levy, Orly and Jonsen, Karsten (2022) 'Secrecy in practice: How middle managers promote strategic initiatives behind the scenes.' Organization Studies, 43 (6). pp. 885-906.

Text - Accepted Version
Download (511kB) | Preview


In this study, we focus on secrecy within organizations and examine why and how middle managers use secrecy to explore and promote strategic initiatives. We conceptualize secrecy as a dynamic social process that unfolds in the political arena and is oriented toward gaining influence and power. It is enacted through a distinct set of practices intentionally designed to conceal and control identities, activities and information. Drawing on 35 in-depth interviews with executives who recount their experiences as middle managers, our findings indicate that middle managers tend to use secrecy under unfavourable contextual and personal conditions. Further, we find that middle managers use three key practices – selecting for enrolment, sequencing involvement and controlling information – to explore and promote strategic initiatives in secrecy. These secrecy practices enable them to influence cognition, emotions and exchange relations as they compete for attention and support. Finally, our findings suggest that secrecy can lead to two opposite outcomes. Managed carefully, secrecy enhances receptivity to strategic initiatives, but if it is mismanaged, secrecy leads to resistance and distrust.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Finance & Management
ISSN: 17413044
Copyright Statement: This is the version of the article/chapter accepted for publication in Organization Studies, 43 (6). pp. 885-906 (2022) published by Sage. Re-use is subject to the publisher’s terms and conditions and is restricted to non-commercial and no derivative uses
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2021 12:46

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item